ALBANY, N.Y. — The Recent York State Legislature on Friday passed a measure that, if fully enacted, would enshrine within the State Structure the correct to hunt an abortion and access contraception.
The measure — the Equal Rights Amendment — places Recent York on the forefront of legal efforts to guard reproductive rights after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last week, ending long-established abortion protections.
However the amendment’s reach is way broader. It prohibits the federal government from discriminating against anyone based on an inventory of qualifications including race, ethnicity, national origin, disability or sex — specifically noting sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and pregnancy on the list of protected conditions.
“We are able to not afford to play a risk game because the correct not only goes to take all the things to court, they’re starting to regulate all of the courts,” said Senator Liz Krueger, the architect of the amendment. “So it’s just increasingly more vital to enshrine things in state constitutions in addition to state laws.”
The timing, they said, was vital as well.
“I feel this primary passage meets the moment that Recent Yorkers want to specific their support for abortion rights and reproductive health care — in addition to protect other Recent Yorkers,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat of Manhattan, who co-sponsored the bill.
Republicans were divided on the amendment, particularly within the Senate, where seven voted in favor and 13 against. A few of those that opposed it, including Senator Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, argued that Democrats had overreached and produced text that might, in effect, discriminate against certain religious views.
“I don’t think anybody must be discriminated against — whatever your views on abortion,” Mr. Lanza said.
Greater than a dozen states and the District of Columbia affirmed or expanded abortion rights before the Supreme Court ruling, while one other dozen or so Republican-led states had laws in place that outlawed abortion after the ruling was issued.
Within the last days of Recent York’s 2022 legislative session, lawmakers passed a package of bills geared toward protecting abortion seekers and providers. But after the Supreme Court issued decisions on abortion and concealed weapons, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, ordered the Legislature to return to Albany on Thursday for a rare session.
Following an extended night of negotiations, the measure passed the Senate without debate. The Assembly voted to pass it late Friday evening.
Still, no changes will occur straight away.
Amending the State Structure is a yearslong process in Recent York, requiring passage by two individually elected Legislatures, after which approval by voters in a referendum. By passing it this 12 months, Democratic leaders hope that they’ll win approval next 12 months and get it to voters in 2024, when a high turnout is anticipated in a presidential election 12 months.
Though Ms. Hochul has no formal role in approving such an amendment, she has been a vocal champion of the measure and has included the hassle in campaign ads.
Proponents had hoped to pass the amendment at the top of the 2022 session, which concluded in early June. But the hassle got bogged down after several leading religious groups, including the Catholic Conference and the Jewish Community Relations Council, opposed the measure for a range reasons.
One key issue was whether the act of enshrining latest protected classes into the State Structure would in any way downgrade existing religious protections.
Early versions of the bills didn’t include religion or creed on the list of protected classes, though religious rights do appear elsewhere within the state Structure. Religious groups protested mightily.
Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Committee, said that while he supported adding protections for transgender and reproductive rights, he believed that by omitting religion from the particular list was unacceptable.
“What they take into account are the marriage photographer, bake shop cases,” Mr. Stern said, referring to past court cases involving businesses that denied their services to gay couples. “That’s why they’re excluding religion and creed.”
Mr. Stern said he believed that lawmakers intended for gay couples to win those cases — which he considered putting “a thumb on the size.”
By Friday, lawmakers had reached a compromise, adding religion to the list of protected classes in order that it might be on equal footing with sex and race.
Lawmakers said the compromise would make sure that the state had stronger protections than ever for members of protected classes, and that one group’s rights wouldn’t diminish one other’s.
“This amendment is actually a shield, not a sword,” Mr. Hoylman said.
A provision that may have lowered the usual for discrimination — to incorporate unintentional discrimination that ends in a ‘disparate impact’ — was faraway from the laws, to the frustration of advocates. But a clause within the law leaves the door open for future changes.
While the Catholic Conference continued to oppose the measure, other religious groups, including the Jewish Community Relations Council voiced their support, saying that they were gratified to have found “common ground so as to add these protections for all Recent Yorkers including the protection of the correct to non secular freedom.”
Other proponents, including the Recent York Civil Liberties Union, also cheered the passage, calling an important first step in responding to the ‘existential threat” posed by the Supreme Court.
“Our state structure, if this amendment passes, will say, ‘not here in Recent York and never on our watch.’ Our equal protection clause can function a model,” said Lee Rowland, policy director for the N.Y.C.L.U., adding: “That’s a giant win.”